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Port of Hamburg: dramatic location

Photo: Ulrich Perrey/dpa

Hamburg sees itself as a gateway to the world - but fewer and fewer goods and containers are being delivered to the Hanseatic city.

Last year, the Port of Hamburg lost again in terms of goods throughput and achieved its worst result in almost 15 years.

A total of 114.3 million tons of sea freight passed over the quay edges, said the head of Port of Hamburg Marketing, Axel Mattern.

The port has lost almost five percent compared to 2022. This is the worst value since 2009 - the year after the global economic crisis.

At that time, 110.4 million tons of sea freight were handled.

The best result was achieved ten years ago with 145.6 million tons.

The situation is also dramatic when it comes to important container handling.

There, the Port of Hamburg lost one million standard containers (TEU) within two years.

According to information, 7.7 million TEU passed the quayside last year.

This is also the worst value since 2009, when 7 million TEU were handled.

Hamburg's red-green Senate now wants to stabilize the port.

The largest transshipment company, the port logistics company HHLA, is to bring the Italian shipping company MSC on board.

The city and MSC will run HHLA as a joint venture in the future.

The city should retain a majority of 50.1 percent.

The city currently owns around 70 percent of the listed HHLA.

In return, the world's largest shipping company MSC wants to build its German headquarters in Hamburg, increase the cargo volume from 2025 and increase it to an additional million TEU per year by 2031.

Employees criticize the deal

However, there is strong resistance to the deal from the Verdi union and HHLA employees who fear for their participation and their jobs.

The Hamburg citizenship is expected to have the final say in May.

Mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD) wants to make a government statement in parliament on Wednesday.

With regard to the port, Mattern said: "The decline is primarily due to the difficult geopolitical and economic situation that all market participants are confronted with." But he also emphasized: "We are on a par with the development of our throughput figures Northern European competitive environment and can hold our own well in comparison with other ports.«

According to the information, container throughput in what is by far Europe's largest port, Rotterdam, fell by 7 percent to 13.4 million TEU.

Mattern refrained from making a specific forecast for 2024, but said: “We will be happy if we can keep what we have.”

By far the most containers went to or came from China last year.

According to the information, there were a total of 2.17 million TEU - after 2.46 million TEU in 2022. Among the top 10 countries, the port of Hamburg recorded increases in the throughput of containers from Finland, Great Britain and India.

According to the information, bulk cargo throughput remained almost unchanged last year at 36.2 million tons (2022: 36.3 million tons), while conventional general cargo throughput fell from 1.4 to 1.2 million tons.

The main reason is the weak demand for steel and iron as well as sanctions for copper, for example.

The CDU opposition in the Hamburg parliament held the red-green coalition in the Hanseatic city and the traffic light coalition in Berlin partly responsible for the decline in the port.

"Both have been unable to make the necessary decisions for years and, above all, to ensure better framework and competitive conditions," said CDU parliamentary group leader Dennis Thering.

According to the politician, it remains more than doubtful whether MSC's planned entry into HHLA will lead to a reversal of the trend.

Left port expert Norbert Hackbusch called on the Senate to rethink.

“The port of Hamburg has a structural problem” that cannot be solved by an unfortunate marriage to a shipping company.